Vanuatu - Facts

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Vanuatu Alerts

  • Message from the Vanuatu Border Control – 21 May, 2024:
    With the ongoing civil unrest in New Caledonia, we have received increased interests from yatchies and industry partners-alike, who are choosing Vanuatu as their next port or choice.
    ⚠️ Please note that all vessels departing Noumea to Vanuatu , under these exceptional circumstances, must report to Port-Vila at this time, to seek clearance from the Vanuatu Border Control and Customs. All vessels complete the required documentations and submit the following :
    ✔️ Boat Registration
    ✔️ Previous Ports (before Noumea)
    ✔️ Photo of the Boat
    ✔️ Other boat related documents
    All vessels must report to Port-Vila only and not other ports. This is to ensure that you have completed the French border control formalities if you were not able to do so, prior to departing New-Caledonia.
    We thank you for your understanding and we look forward to welcoming you to our shores.
  • Cyclone Damage:
  • Many areas of Vanuatu suffered extensive damage from natural disasters in 2023 including from Cyclones Judy and Kevin (March 2023) and then from an earthquake.
  • In a show of support and camaraderie from the cruising community, rally organisers and cruisers in the South Pacific gathered much-needed aid and supplies for devastated parts of the country.  See News for more information.
  • If you are planning to visit Vanuatu, it is suggested contacting local authorities to see if there is anything you can take to help the communities which are still trying to re-build their lives after the devastation of the cyclones.

Vanuatu Facts for Sailors

  • Important pre-arrival information: Vanuatu Customs require an Advance Notice of Arrival. See Formalities for all the details.
  • Vanuatu, formerly called the New Hebrides, is an archipelago of 83 islands in the Western Pacific around 1,750 km east of Australia, lying at the end of a chain of volcanic peaks stretching southeast from Papua New Guinea.
  • Espiritu Santo, Malekula, Efate, Erromango, Ambrym and Tanna are the main islands.
  • Cruising-wise, the prevailing winds allow you to sail downwind from Tanna all the way to the Torres Island, and due to the shape of the island chain much of the sailing is in calm seas relative to the wind strength.
  • With the exception of the northern islands, the number of natural harbours is rather limited, with the notable exception of the main island Efate which has several attractive bays.
  • Left alone by the Europeans for longer than other parts of the Pacific, Vanuatu leapt into the modern age quickly, while remaining a place where the rich Melanesian culture is kept very much alive. It is the chance to experience a little of this fascinating culture that brings most sailors to this country which has been endowed with less cruising attractions than its neighbours.
  • With a unique blend of Melanesian (Ni-Vanuatu) tribal communities, Vanuatu has some of the world’s rarest cultural festivals, rituals & events. Don’t miss the death-defying Pentecost Land Diving (nagol), the Tanna Toka Dance which goes on for days, the mystical Rom dance of Ambrym Island of magic and fire, and Water Music custom festival performed by the women of Gaua Island.
  • One of the greatest attractions of the islands is a visit to the live volcano on Tanna or Ambrym, where one can ascend into the crater, the closest one can get to an active volcano safely anywhere in the world. Even sailing by these islands one can be treated to a spectacular firework display, especially at night.
  • Many villages receive little or no contact with the outside world other than through yachts. Cruisers have noted the increasing trend of villages to charge for activities or tours and even for trips around villages. If taking part in a tour or activity check to see if the community benefits from it. Be polite and say you would prefer to walk around a village yourself; all too often they will show you around for free anyway.
  • Trading goods for local carvings and fresh produce is a major source of clothing, school supplies, and currency for these villagers. Carry second-hand clothing, notebooks, pencils and pens, fishing line and hooks, reading glasses, old magazines, etc. for bartering with locals.
  • Getting work done: Port Vila offers good services for yachts. Port Vila Boatyard has haulout facilities, marine electricians and mechanics and cyclone certified moorings. Many spare parts can be found in Port Vila and Luganville or can easily be ordered and flown in from Australia, NZ or USA and brought in Duty and VAT free for visiting yachts.
  • For information on provisioning and other supplies, see Yachting Essentials.

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  1. May 21, 2024 at 10:44 AM
    profile photo
    Sue Richards says:

    Message from the Vanuatu Border Control:
    With the ongoing civil unrest in New Caledonia, we have received increased interests from yatchies and industry partners-alike, who are choosing Vanuatu as their next port or choice.
    ⚠️ Please note that all vessels departing Noumea to Vanuatu , under these exceptional circumstances, must report to Port-Vila at this time, to seek clearance from the Vanuatu Border Control and Customs. All vessels complete the required documentations and submit the following :
    ✔️ Boat Registration
    ✔️ Previous Ports (before Noumea)
    ✔️ Photo of the Boat
    ✔️ Other boat related documents
    All vessels must report to Port-Vila only , and not other ports. This is to ensure that you have completed the French border control formalities if you were not able to do so, prior to departing New-Caledonia.
    We thank you for your understanding and we look forward to welcoming you to our shores.
    From Vanuatu Department of Tourism Facebook Page.

  2. August 15, 2023 at 6:57 AM
    profile photo
    James Ashwell says:

    Uhuru of London cruised Vanuatu for 3 months from May to August 2023. Overall, we can not recommend Vanuatu enough as a cruising destination. In fact it truly amazes us how there aren’t way more cruisers here. The country is in the top 3 of the 30 countries we have visited in the 6 years we have been cruising. It is no exaggeration to say that this is how many of us imagined the Pacific to be 50 years ago, but incredibly, it is truly like that here.
    Firstly, safety. Vanuatu is, in general, a very safe country. We did not experience any threatening behaviour, crime or even feel uncomfortable at any point in the 3 months here. In fact quite the opposite, the people we incredibly friendly.
    There is also a huge amount to see in Vanuatu, so allow a lot more time than you expect! Each island is rich in culture and the more effort you make to leave the anchorage and explore the richer the experience you will have.
    It is also the perfect sailing location with prevailing winds allowing you to sail downwind from Tana all the way to the Torres Island, and due to the shape of the island chain much of the sailing is in calm seas relative to the wind strength.
    Clearing into Tana at Port Resolution is easy and smooth with Stanley assisting us. It is also possible to arrange to clear out of the far north in Sola or Torres, but that takes a little more work with the customs guys at Luganville.
    We are very happy to share specific recommendations or advice any time, just whatsapp James on 00447779335417. Enjoy

  3. March 6, 2023 at 12:11 PM
    profile photo
    sue-richards says:

    Feedback from Elsie of Yachting World Marina, Port Vila, post Cyclones Judy and Kevin:

    Gosh – you would never believe the devastation!! With one Cyclone followed by another – which was much more severe – most of our Staff have lost their houses! As it’s cyclone season there are no yachts around, so no damage there – I would not know the situation in the outer islands for yachts coming to Vanuatu. Here at Yachting World – in Port Vila – we hope to lift all our 37 moorings in the Harbour – and all of our moorings on the Marina – as soon as is possible – hopefully by 1st May – to accommodate yachts
    arriving in Port Vila. The Yachting World Office building has lost most of its roof – but staff are
    tying large tarpaulins – until we can repair it.

  4. September 7, 2019 at 3:28 AM
    jslomaniinet-net-au says:

    SY Discovery cruised Vanuatu in September 2019. Overall, an amazing country to visit.

    We found the Rocket Cruising Guide to Vanuatu invaluable in our planning and navigation. Amongst other lovely anchorages, we anchored in the inner anchorage at Uliveo in the Maskelyne Islands. When going ashore, we met Philip who has very recently (in September 2019) established the Lavrisi Yacht Club where we were offered coconuts and kava. Philip gave us a tour of the island (on foot), it was really excellent and we highly recommend it. Philip also offers other assistance and is very helpful.

  5. January 22, 2019 at 2:17 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Simon in the Vanuatu Gov offices has confirmed the following places to clear into Vanuatu:

    Espiritu Santo – Luganville;    Efate – Port Vila; Tanna – Lenakel;   Banks Islands – Sola.     His number is +678 774 7513 for contact.

  6. October 31, 2018 at 12:53 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Clearance into Vanuatu – reported by SY Golden Glow October 8th, 2018:

    IMPORTANT UPDATE.
    We cleared immigration at Port Resolution in August with no problem, but customs had to be done in Port Vila when we got there some weeks later (the officials in Tanna told us not to worry about the delay and officials in Port Vila also had no problem with that).

    Friends who tried to clear Vanuatu immigration into Tanna EITHER in Lenakel or Port Resolution a few weeks ago, however, were told it is no longer possible. There was a sign on the door in Lenakel saying go to Port Vila.
    So folks, check the current status before you go. Stanley in Port Resolution May have the answer +678 68791

  7. October 12, 2018 at 11:51 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Loltong Bay- North Western Pentecost

    We visited Loltong Bay which is a very secure sand bottom reef anchorage for any winds from the east. Note that the buffeting winds around the very tall steep mountains do cause accelerated bullets from all directions which jolt on the chain but provided you have set the anchor well is still secure (we had 40-knot gusts). It is important to note where the reef is on all sides & how close you will be if the wind comes from a different direction to how you set the anchor. While most of the western coasts of Maewo & Pentecost are affected by the south-east swell wrapping around in developed conditions, Loltong Bay & Asanvari on SW Maewo are calm & swell free.

    The families that run the Vatulo Yacht Club here on the left-hand side of Loltong Bay are Matthew & Marie (Tel: +678 5344714) with their 5 adopted children. They were the kindest & most welcoming people we have met here in the friendliest country on earth! The rest of the village were equally friendly.

    In Sept 2018 both Maewo & Pentecost received heavy unseasonal rain & the Yacht club collapsed. They used to offer yachties meals, a book swap, and tour bookings, but with no physical shelter for the club, they have put all services on hold.

    While we were there Marie created a wonderful meal for us out of the tiny hut next door over a fire in exchange for help fixing their sailing dingy. We encouraged them to still offer meals to yachties despite not having a permanent shelter, so anyone visiting here please support them. Maybe they will have rebuilt already by next 2019 season but if not, I am sure that any help would be very much appreciated in getting them back on their feet. Also, if anyone has a sailing dingy, the kids are eager to learn & race too!

  8. September 17, 2018 at 12:00 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Message from Vanuatu Yacht Services:
    Good evening from Efate, Vanuatu. We would like to inform all visiting yachts small and large that the island of Ambae is currently off limits to visitors. ⚠️Please do not attempt to anchor anywhere along Ambae’s coastline as you will end up facing issues with the local authorities. ⚠️There is a current state of emergency on Ambae (due to volcanic activity) and all the people have been evacuated to the surrounding islands of Maewo and Santo.

    The police and army are tasked with looking after all property on the island and they do not want any visitors nosing around. ???? We hope the situation will eventually return to normal for the people who have been displaced. Anyone wishing to assist evacuees in the new settlement sites can contact us to find out how to do so.
    you.

  9. September 5, 2018 at 11:38 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Port Dues
    Port dues are now 8050 vatus for the first month.

  10. August 24, 2018 at 12:33 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    RE Shopping & the environment: while Vanuatu has banned single-use plastic bags, drinking straws & takeaway containers, (which is fantastic) the markets & supermarkets still hand out the plastic mesh bags when you buy small sized vegetables. In the supermarket this was easy as we take our own cotton or mesh veggie bags with us anyway, at the market they are pre packaged but only tied not crimped so the vendors were more than happy to take the bags back & re-use them (as they have to pay for them)so we emptied them into our own bags.

    Also when trading, think about the items you are giving. Small packets of laundry powder & milk are very useful but as the remote islands have no means to dispose of their rubbish responsibly we saw the discarded wrappers of these items in particular just strewn about the villages. We saved practically EVERY single container onboard which would be suitable for decanting cooking oil, rice, coffee, laundry powder, etc & found that people would keep these to use again for something else as water & air tight seals are hard to come by!

  11. August 20, 2018 at 1:57 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    While in Port Villa 2018 we investigated the procedures for duty-free alcohol intake in Villa, even though we would be clearing out of Sola in several weeks’/ months time. Customs said it can be done, but they have to physically come to the boat to “seal” the goods & the inter island cruising permit would have to be amended/ re-issued (in order for Luganville to check the goods).

    We would then have to get another new cruising permit in Luganville to check out of Sola. We decided not proceed.

  12. November 7, 2017 at 12:28 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Navigator 1 and several other yachts arrived at Erromango island in Vanuatu at Dillions Bay (or Williams Bay as the locals call it after John Williams). We all had clothes to give to Villagers, however, we did ask the Chief (Jason Mete – Cell: 7767737) for a list of items that are required in most Villages throughout Vanuatu. This is a general request to any visiting Yachts to please bring products with them as donations. We didn’t realise the extent of the gear they needed.

    Clothes: Men’s, women’s, children and babies. The latter two are important as adult clothes are easy to obtain from the likes of Australia.
    Cooking items: Pots, spoons, cups, kitchen knives
    Bush knives or Machetes
    Shoes
    Student books
    Reading books
    Pens, Pencils
    Children’s toys
    Small solar lights or panels of any size
    Torches
    Fishing gear: lines, lures, hooks
    School laptops
    Milk, Milo, rice (25kg bags), sweets

    Any of these items would be gratefully accepted and can help a great deal. Thankyou

  13. March 22, 2017 at 7:40 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Feedback from Port Vila Boatyard re Mele Bay:
    Mele Bay – Hideaway Island is not a safe anchorage. While it’s fine in good weather overnight or as a day Anchorage, unless one gets very close to shore it’s actually too deep to anchor there, then if a westerly comes through a vessel will then get dangerously close to shore. Not a place to leave a vessel unattended. Beach Bar is great fun but they now do have a jet-ski operator there.

    We actually rescued that large red catamaran from the beach a few years ago after it was washed ashore in the night when it was left unattended. Had it not been for the immediate assistance of Vanuatu Yacht Services and Marine Surveyors and Consultants with the help of the people of Mele village that we organised to help, the vessel would have been a total loss. I am concerned that the information presented on Noonsite regarding Mele bay being a safe anchorage will lead to another yacht being washed ashore there.

  14. January 17, 2017 at 4:44 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Posted on behalf of Jan Bochenski, SY Bold Spirit (UK)
    Cruising the whole of Vanuatu, one can safely say there are more mechanical spare parts available in Luganville than Port Vila.
    Best Marine Engineer is JT or John Turner available on: +678 7101766

  15. July 17, 2015 at 3:43 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Re: Visit and feedback on land diving, Southern Pentecost Island, Vanuatu
    By s/y honey (Australia)

    We recently witnessed the phenomenal land diving on Southern Pentecost Island with a number of other yachties. The villages are quite poor in Vanuatu, and finding recovery from Cyclone Pam is challenging. We asked if the 10,000 vatu (about $125 Aud.) per person ticket to the land diving was helping the village and beyond.

    We were told by a local that the chief who collects this money does not use it to contribute to the health and education for the village, but uses it instead for personal gain.
    We suggest asking the village people and the chiefs where fees are going before paying.

  16. October 7, 2014 at 12:29 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    The Vanuatu Customs website is now working perfectly and all forms are available to download.

  17. October 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Regarding bringing crew into Vanuatu. This is NO PROBLEM. We read here that bonds might be payable equal to a flight home. Or that a return ticket was required.

    This is simply not the case. The process is very simple. Provide a letter to immigration in Port Vila stating that “John doe” is joining your yacht, and will be arriving on flight , etc… Along with a copy of the crew’s passport.

    Bring this to the immigration office in Port Vila and Vatu$6,000 ($60.00) and you’re set. Dead easy. And the immigration folks are amazingly easy to work with. Love this country!

  18. October 7, 2014 at 10:35 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Hi, first comments here on noonsite.

    First off, I’d like to comment on just how amazing a country Vanuatu is to visit by yacht. Without exception, every encounter with the myriad of officials we all must deal with entering countries have been outstandingly friendly, accommodating, polite — and did I mention friendly??

    A few comments to be helpful. On the Vanuatu Customs Website, there is a form to fill in for advance arrival. It doesn’t work. Nor do any of the phone numbers. They’re having some IT issues. Use the email address: [email protected] for the required advance notification of arrival.

    We stayed in touch with customs on our crossing from Fiji. We requested clearance for Port Resolution as is now required. Within 30 minutes of dropping the pick down — we were boarded and cleared into Vanuatu by two of the friendliest government officials we’ve ever encountered! Yes, it did cost some extra money to clear-in to port resolution — as opposed to Lenaki on the other side of the island — but after experiencing the experience of traversing the two ports in the back of a 4×4, it’s worth the expense!

    Some other notes about Tamna. There are NO ATMs that will work with foreign cards. Full stop. None. You MAY be able to find OEM guest-house or other business on the other side of the island in Lenakel that MAY have enough cash in they’re ’till to help you out, but DON’T count on it. Of coming from Fiji, go to the airport with your passport, and, most important, your customs paperwork — and you can exchange whatever dollars you might have for Vanuatu Vatu.

    Clearing in at port resolution will cost v$10,000 ($100.00). Bring lots more V$ with you as everything will cost money. Going up the volcano, visiting custom villages, etc., all require vatu$. And every penny spent is worth it!

    … More coming …

  19. October 3, 2014 at 10:56 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    I recommend Mele Bay as an anchorage. It is much better holding than Port Vila and has good protection from SE if you tuck into the corner near the big red racing cat mooring. Beach bar has good food & entertainment. Port Vila market is only 15 mins away y public bus at 150 vatus. Quiet anchorage without all the jet skis.

  20. October 3, 2014 at 10:50 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Warning re unleaded fuel in Vanuatu. I recently returned from Vanuatu. In September Pacific Fuel, the supplier of most fuel in the country managed to distribute unleaded fuel that contained not 10% ethanol but 30%! This has resulted in damage to outboards that used it, including my tender’s 8hp Mariner. Cruisers need to check their fuel before using any Pacific Fuel product. The company still distributed their faulty product rather than recalling it.

  21. September 30, 2014 at 9:25 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Posted on behalf of Anthony Swanston of s/v/Wild Fox
    Port Vila Boatyard, Efate
    Just a few words about this out of the way boatyard. It was taken over by Justin, a South African, about two years ago. They offer a full range of repair and caretaker services including cyclone certified moorings.

    The small repair job they did for me was carried out very expertly and at a reasonable cost. All the employees are long serving. I watched them haul a catamaran and they had two divers in the water to ensure that everything was OK.

    Efate is not somewhere you would automatically think of when getting work done but my experience demonstrates that it is a location that should be on your list.

  22. September 7, 2014 at 12:41 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Posted on behalf of Peter Wederell of Total Marine Solutions:
    There’s a new boatyard being developed on Santo which should be operational early next year. It has a 60 ton travel lift and plans are to have a multihull haulout facility as well.